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I understand that the policy is not to allow any answers whatsoever in the comments, but there is a bit of a weird situation when it comes to [on hold] questions. Lately I've been encountering a lot of on hold questions where comments have been removed by the moderators with the usual 'An on hold question is not an invitation to answer in comments.' or 'Please don't answer in comments.'

This is, of course, simply the moderators doing their job, but often these answers could have helped the person asking the question to better flesh out their original post to make a proper answer possible, so that it no longer has to be on hold.

Sometimes the comments that get deleted are in fact such good answers that it makes me wonder why the question was put on hold in the first place, because clearly it was precise enough that a proper answer could be formulated. Blink a few times and the answer is gone though.

Shouldn't we be leaving these comments around for longer than 5 minutes, so they can help improve the question?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited the question slightly; just realized that the last sentence completely changed the actual idea behind the question. It wasn't so much about the answer being a valid answer, but being a comment that could easily help improve the answer. Apologies to the people who already formulated an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Mar 10 '15 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Updated my answer to reflect. The basic flaw in your premise is that leaving those comments means the OP gets an answer, which means they won't edit the question and the site is worse off. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Mar 10 '15 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't seem to be a problem in the other stackexchange sites though, where answer-comments are not nearly as zealously deleted as they are here. There they tend to get incorporated into the question and fleshed out into an actual answer, instead of thrown into oblivion. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Mar 10 '15 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may find it useful to peruse the comments tag and get a sense of how this site's citizenship has been self-educating to be more effectively self-policing of its comments. The moderators don't generally go looking for comments to delete; they respond to community flags. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Mar 10 '15 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik That's because we enforce several of the Stack's comment rules, where those other sites do not or cannot due to scale. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 10 '15 at 21:16
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It's not really a weird policy, and in fact, in the case that you're talking about, we the users potentially have the power to take care of it.

First. Comments can't be directly migrated to answers. If you have a full answer that fits in a comment, you probably haven't written enough. More importantly though, comments just aren't a good vehicle for an answer.

Second. If a commenter feels like they know what the person is asking, their first move should not be to leave a comment. It should be to edit the question and make it clear what's being asked. Then they can cast a reopen vote (or flag for reopen if they lack sufficient reputation to cast a reopen vote). Then the community can decide if the question is now answerable.

The point of closing questions is to prevent answers. Allowing answers in comments defeats this purpose. If you feel like you understand a question well enough to answer it, edit the question. If you don't, but see how it could be clarified by the OP, then leave a comment asking for edits.

While the community can help, it's ultimately on the OP to clearly communicate what they need help with, and then it's up to us to help them. If we can't tease out the precise problem, we don't have any business answering it, especially not in the comments.

To answer your last sentence directly. No. These comments are a violation of the fact that the question is closed. If the commenters think they have something that can improve the question, they should post that. Answering in comments shouldn't be tolerated because it creates a disincentive to actually curating the site properly. They question won't get edited and reopened because the OP has what they want.

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A good answer does not, a good question, make...

Someone may write an excellent answer to an unclear question or too broad question but generally a question is useless on our site if its not well written. A question should effectively communicate its needs and adhere to our guidelines or it should remain closed/on-hold until such time as it meets those qualities. Questions on our site serve two purposes: 1) help the person who asked the question, 2)help anyone else who also has, will have, or might have this issue in the future. A question needs to be searchable, readable, and understandable to fulfill this second purpose.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've kept this short, but I could give a case by case breakdown for each close vote reason and why a question should remain closed until that reason is fixed. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Mar 10 '15 at 14:51
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Comments with questions about an unclear question help, as they tend to get the question clarified. Those are fine.

Comments that are stabs at answering an unclear question hurt, as they either result in the OP wandering off, or set weird expectations among others that you really know what the question is saying when you don't. These don't help clarify anything and are deleted.

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No.

A bad or unclear question is a bad or unclear question, and simply because one person has an answer that appears correct/good, doesn't mean that it actually answers the question the poster intended. It may be a good guess, but it's still a guess.

Comments are intended to help clarify and improve the question to where it can be reopened/answered, not for answering a closed question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, search engine considerations come into play with unclear titles or titles that don't reflect the nature of the actual question. \$\endgroup\$ – JohnP Mar 10 '15 at 14:52

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